Sitting in my room one gloomy afternoon a thought happened to strike me out of the blue. Why are the children always crazy about going out to the market with their parents? They don’t know anybody there, then what is that which interests them so much. I know I was the same, and I have seen my brother grow up with the same enthusiasm. I started to list down in my mind the things that could interest a child out in the crowd. And soon my imagination bought me to Toyman, the superhero of every child. Now you must be wondering who Toyman is. Well, Toyman is that man who probably was not as fortunate as you or I, and today he earns his living only by selling cheap toys to the children, standing at various corners of the streets. We can say about him being not so fortunate because his parents probably could never afford a toy for him, nor gain him proper education. Or else, he sure would have chosen a different profession. But as far his fortune took him, this was the best job he could do. But that is my thought as a grown up man. To the innocent eyes of a child, he is nothing less than any superhero. He has every toy that a child could dream of. He shows them off at the streets, and gives to any child who asks. He is like the owner of a magic lamp, who can put his hand inside his bag and take out the speaking duck or the hustling train, the different shaped balloons or the crazy bouncing balls, the colorful Rubik’s cube or even the warrior Beyblade. He is Toyman, a fortunate child’s not so fortunate superhero!
Life is a journey! It is one long journey that we all have to go through to reach the end and see what lies there for us. And the path we choose along this journey, decides what our end looks like. But within this vast journey, we all make several other small journeys… to a different city, to a different street, to space, or maybe just a journey back home. For some, these journeys can be to make a living, for some it could be a social convention, while some could be just vagabonds on the hunt for a reason to their living. Journeys are an inevitable part of human life, all these small journeys compiled together make up our life’s journey.
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
~ Walt Whitman
Street photography is the most out-of-convention genre of photography. It is defined by every individual in his own way. Every street photographer has a different way portraying life that happens before him, some shoot color, some prefer mono; some go for close-up textures, some believe in story telling area; some shoot with 35mm, some won’t let go of their 85mm. Its the most unique subject that can be treated in a unique way by every street photographer, but here I put forward a few points which I think should be common for every street photographer. And if you find any of these in you, its very simple, forget street photography!
- Beauty Is sexy!
If you think that a beautiful person is always an elegant or sexy person, then forget street photograph, go for fashion. The thumb rule to be followed in here is that beauty has nothing to do with being sexy; but its all about the textures, the color, the emotions, the expression which lie on the face of the person. If you think that its highly wrong for you to see a man as being beautiful just because you are a man too and obviously you are straight, then you are already on the wrong lane my friend. See the beauty that is there in every person in the world. No one is devoid of the beauty, if you have the eyes to see it. If you don’t, then curse yourself, don’t say there aren’t any nice subjects to shoot.
- My gear sucks!
This is something which has been mentioned by millions of photographers a trillion times, and yet some people cannot get it into their thick heads. “Owning a Nikon does not make you a photographer, it makes you a Nikon owner.” That is one excellent quote said by someone, not me, but I don’t remember who it was. But the main point here is if you do not know how to shoot, then no great camera is going to make you a photographer. First you have to learn to see, your eyes are there for that; then you have to learn to compose, any rectangular framing is enough for that; and then all you need to do is press the shutter, i don’t think there is any camera in the world which comes without a shutter (what the hell!). I am not saying that everyone owning a Rebel T1i is a genius and people going for the 5D Mark II is a fool. Its not like that. It is not wrong to own an expensive camera or a lens (obviously they are made to be purchased and used). But buy them only when you know what is the purpose of that expensive equipment you hold, and how is it going to help you with your photography. Don’t buy it just because you can afford it. Know the function of each kind of lens, know the basics of focal length and its relation to depth of field, know the difference between a crop sensor and full frame, know it all, and then decide on what you really need. And if you think that the above photograph is not too bad, then the surprise is, I shot it a few months back with a Samsung Galaxy cellphone of 2 megapixel camera and post-processed then using Little Photo, a mobile photo editing app.
- I’m scare that I will get bashed!
Whenever the topic of street photography arises somewhere, the most common thing that I get to hear from friends as well as strangers is that they are scared that people may just beat them up for clicking pictures without asking. Trust me, it never happens. No body has the time to do that. And not every person on the street is a hooligan as you suspect. Frankly speaking, even I was scared of the same thing at some point of time, but after reading a book by one for the best contemporary street photographers, Thomas Leuthard, I forced myself to get the courage and move forward. And guess what, I started getting much better pictures. It is not the people really who stop you from capturing a great moment, but it is you yourself. Maybe one in a thousand will ask you for what purpose did you take the shot, tell them that its for your office assignment or college project and move on. The stranger will never bother to ask you any more. But just make sure that you don’t look like a freak.
- I have an 800mm lens; I’m going for street photography!
What! Are you kidding me? Only a freak wanting to shoot hot chicks and post them on Facebook calling them their girlfriend would do that. 800mm lens is for a wildlife photographer. Respect them, and the amount of risk they take to bring out those amazing shots. An 800mm lens only reduces their risk factor by 15%. If you are a street photographer, I don’t think you want to sit at home and shoot the entire city. Probably the best lens for street is a 50mm prime lens. It gives you wide aperture (to allow maximum light) so that you can shoot at high shutter speed even in low light, and great depth of field to isolate your main subject in a crowded street. Some street photographers also go for 85mm, 35mm or maybe even 28mm prime lenses. Street photography is all about going closest to your subject and mixing yourself with the environment. It is only then that you can come out with the best shots. As the photography legend Robert Capa once quoted, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”
- Life is boring!
If you already have a mind-set that life is boring and there is nothing on the streets except crowded people running around recklessly, then mate, first and foremost you need a psychiatrist. You have to learn to see the beauty of life and appreciate it. Every moment every person is doing something so unique that once the moment passes, it can never be caught again. First, realize that, and then go out on the streets. You will know exactly what I’m talking about.
- I’ll never go against my ethics!
Now this is the most controversial topic in street photography, and many of you may disagree with me, but that is your faith and I can’t change that. I have my own belief and I won’t change mine. According to me there is nothing wrong in shooting something which shows the darker side of life, after all its not manipulated. What I’m portraying in my picture is nothing but reality. Many people believe that it is wrong to shoot pictures of poverty, physically disabled, or any such thing which makes the viewer sad. But I as a street/documentary photographer believe that it is my duty to bring the truth of life in front of everyone. If you wanna get all smiles, go for the portfolio of a landscape photographer. After all life is never fair, so why not bring it out. In fact I would find it unethical to not show reality and only concentrate on the bright side. This is what leads to misconceptions in the minds of people about a particular place or society. The bottom line being that I’m not shooting these people to make fun of them, I only want to portray reality.
Kindly feel free to post your views about street photography and whether you agree or disagree with me. And if you found this post helpful in any way, then kindly share it and spread the word.
Injustice and abuse of students from the northeastern part of India in the rest of the country is a major issue that the nation is facing currently. While most people will deny of any such thing happening, it has been evident that such kind of isolated events keep occurring and re-occurring from time to time, and it is because of this that the people from the northeast claim of such injustice, and are often afraid to step out to mainland India. How far this claim is true cannot really be said, but in year 2012, the unfortunate death of Loitam Richard from Manipur (who got into brawl with his fellow hostel-mates over a television remote control, and is alleged to have died from severe brain hemorrhage caused during the fight) and Dana Sangma from Shillong (alleged to have been humiliated by a Professor of her college to such an extent that she ended up committing suicide) has really raged a fire across the nation. While the individual colleges were completely denying of them being at any kind of fault for the events, people across the nation have held candle marches to demand for justice.
If you are a street photographer and you say that each of your shots were well planned… YOU ARE BLUFFING!
Street Photography is one of a kind where it is the least about preparation and most about luck. Well, do not get me wrong when I use the phrase “least about preparation”.
Let me break that up a little… You have to be PRE-pared so that you don’t need to be POST-pared!
Did that make any sense?
In a more simpler language, your camera should be setup at the right settings (shutter-speed, aperture, etc.), before you start your shooting. Remember, the “decisive moment” happens only for a fraction of a second. You will not have the time to even switch on your camera (if it is switched off), let alone adjusting the exposure and all. This is your PRE-paration!
For POST-paration, all that you do is shoot!
In order to be most PREpared, what I myself do, and would also suggest you to do is apply the following settings:
- Shoot in RAW – The advantage of shooting in RAW is that even if your exposure is slightly up or down while taking the shot, you can still get it back to normal during post-processing.
- Shoot in Aperture Priority – Do not go for “Manual” mode if you aren’t really an expert at it. By the time you figure out the right exposure settings, the moment will already have gone. Keep your control on the depth-of-field (coz usually that plays a more important role in street photography) and leave the shutter-speed adjustment to the camera.
And if these two things are in place, then it’s all about luck. Some days you will spend 3 hours on the streets and come back with 10 satisfactory shots; on other days you may spend 8 hours and come back with none.
But trust me on this, if you are prepared, you will be lucky! If you aren’t, you will be twice lucky!
What I meant from the above statement is that the more unprepared you are, the more interesting things will happen in front of you, which you will not be able to capture. So the choice lies with you.
Now, coming to why I decided on writing this post!
Few months back, I was out with my cousins who had come to my city on vacation, and I decided to show them around. We went all around the city and I kept snapping here and there. Some shots were good, some ok, some instantly deleted.
After having a great time all day, when we were returning home, on the way I noticed a few kids playing in the backyard of their house. I switched on my camera (the settings were PREpared), and pointed towards the kids and tried taking a few shots. None were good enough. The distance was too much for my kit lens to cover. And to make things worse, the road which lead past the house was slightly downhill. So as I kept going nearer to the house, I also kept going down and eventually the backyard or the kids playing there was no more visible to me. I thought it was gone, and of course it was.
But suddenly, one of the kids came running to the railing that guarded the backyard and leaned over, and gave the weirdest/toughest expression he could. I’m not too sure, if that look was even for me or not. But luckily I had not switched off my camera and the exposure settings were also untouched. And this is where “preparation” met “luck”! I immediately raised my camera and took the shot. One of the best shot of my day. When I removed my eye from the viewfinder I noticed that the expression of the child had completely changed. He was stunned to see the camera pop out all of a sudden. I smiled at him and he too smiled back. And I had got my shot.
So be prepared at all times. You might never know when possibly your life’s best picture may pop up in front of you.